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The Limnio Grape

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About Limnio

(Synonyms: Kalabaki, Kalambaki, Kalampaki, Lembiotiko, Lemnia, Lemnio, Lemniotico, Lemniotiko, Limniona, Limniotico, Mavro Limnio, Ntourou Kara, Ntoyrou Kara—see the discussion below about "Limniona".)


Map showing Lemnos

Limnio is a red-wine grape originating on the Greek island of Lemnos, and not yet found outside of Greece. Though little known yet in the wider world of wine, it is widely regarded by such expert critics such as Jancis Robinson and Oz Clarke as one of the dozen and a half or so of world-class red-wine grapes (those in boldface in the varietals list in the dropdown lists up the page). That it is still virtually a "mystery grape" in the U.S. is not a situation likely to persist much longer: grapes of this quality will, in today's interconnected world, make themselves known. Winemaker Nikos Vakirtzis' observation that If Limnio belonged to Italy or France, it would be world famous is by no means braggadocio.

If little known today, Limnio is nonetheless storied. It is widely believed—a few scoffers notwithstanding—that it is the Limnia remarked on by Aristotle (who more than once mentioned its herbaceous flavors of oregano), Hesiod, and Polydeuctes. Today, Limnio is now mainly grown and vinified in the the Halkidiki Peninsula of Greek Macedonia, but also in Thessalia.

Limnio grapes are late-ripening and thus tend to produce juice with high sugar levels, which in turn would lead to high alcohol level in the finished wine. Moreover, if harvested late, the juice also contains certain phenols that tend to impart a definite herbaceous quality to the wines. Thus, the grapes are often harvested relatively early.

The resultant wines are typically large, full-bodied, and strongly flavored, having at least moderate tannins and acidity, and a notably mineral nose, which appears to be its single most distinctive quality, followed by herbaceousness, then dark red-berry overtones.

There appears to be some dispute over whether a wine (and grape) called "Limniona" is or is not the same thing as Limnio. Some sources (notably but not exclusively those making "Limniona" wines) assert that they are definitely distinct. Other sources say that "Limniona" is simply a synonym for Limnio. Yet a few others say that they are slightly different (perhaps different clones?). Till someone does a DNA analysis, it's all guesses and opinions. (We have included here the only "Limniona" available in the U.S., which is also one of the very few in the world.)

(We rarely put a personal oar in the water on these wine-variety pages, but having tasted both types, we found them hugely different stylistically—which may, of course, reflect the vinification as much or more than the grape's inherent characteristics. The Limniona was definitely a "big" wine, while the Limnio was equally definitely a "delicate" wine.)

Factoid: Though some Limnio is still being produced on Lemnos itself, it is not utilized in any appellation wines produced on the island.

Some Descriptions of Limnio Wines

Some Limnios to Try

(About this list.)

There are apparently very few sorts to be found at all in the U.S., and none of them is widely available. The list below shows the ones within (if barely) our price range, and good luck in finding one or more somewhere you can buy from. And, as noted, when found, they tend to push the upper bound of our "under $20" price range. Sorry; it is what it is.

The quotations below are excerpts; we strenuously urge you to click on the green diamond symbol by each quoted review to see the full article.
Domaine Zafeirakis Limniona
(Don't mistake their Roséof Limnonia for their red bottling.)

• Retail offers of this wine listed by 1000 Corks
• Retail offers of this wine listed by Wine Searcher
• This wine's CellarTracker review pages.
• This wine's Wine Searcher "Tasting Notes" page.

Some quotations and facts about this wine:
Zafeirakis Limniona speaks of red fruits, freshness and elegance. The large and thick-skinned berries give a vivid ruby colour with medium intensity. On the nose, layers of cherries, strawberries and pungent spices are supplemented by subtle oaky notes and earthiness. Definitely this is a wine expressing fruit grown in a certain place rather than being about French or American oak flavours. On the palate it’s all about freshness provided by firm acidity levels in great balance with fruit extract and powerful, yet not astringent, tannins.

Beautiful fruity nose of pomegranate sweetness, ripe strawberries, raspberries, red currants, cherry stones; earthy notes, slightly dusty. Vibrant juicy acidity, soft velvety tannins. Sour cherries, red currants, Indian spices; touch of lavender or rosemary? Mineral. Very long length. Centred on elegance and richness in flavour. Fine textured. Tight structure that suggests a beautiful development. Seeks food to shine.

[It] had a red violet Bordeaux like color, but the fruit seemed slightly cooked on the nose. The palate was cleaner if showing hints of asphalt. Overall a straightforward red but lacking much expression.

2008 Domaine Zafeirakis Limniona is a rustic red wine, with notes of plum, black cherry, and herbs, and would pair well with hearty but simple Mediterranean food.

The wine is silky and ever so elegant, a true original.

[A] deliciously balanced red with boysenberry and cherry notes on the nose followed by dark blue fruit and juicy, well-integrated tannins.

deep plum - tart - mineral - cherry - lingering mouth-feel - smooth

The grapes were initially fermented in a large wooden vat and then aged in second and third fill French oak barriques. Vivid medium-dark, not unlike a great Burgundy. Blossoming into a fruited spice. A new to me aroma; so far nothing remotely like it in the Greek vineyard. A nod of herbs. Creamy. Classy. Despite the 'heat' of the vintage, a refreshingly present acidity. Lacey. At this stage, a little facile (young vine playfulness) on the finish. With bottle ageing, it will open up

Stylish Boysenberry syrup nose lifted with a floral complexity. Spiced jammy red fruit flavours and textured tannins ending with a delicate florality. ****

The extra time in bottle has allowed the wine to completely absorb the oak, and vibrant strawberry, strawberry jam and red licorice dominate the palate with tinges of orange zest. Lovely.

Porto Carras Limnio
(Don't mistake this for their Limnio-Cab blend.)

• Retail offers of this wine listed by 1000 Corks
• Retail offers of this wine listed by Wine Searcher
• This wine's CellarTracker review pages.
• This wine's Wine Searcher "Tasting Notes" page.

Some quotations and facts about this wine:
On the nose there is a salty red fruit character. This wine is animalistic and gamy. It offers bricky fruit tannins with dried red fruit and a tarry leather quality intermingled with paraffin wax and very rich red spiced fruit. Very delicious and quite a serious wine!

Dark red violet color; juniper, herb, dried currant nose; tart currant, juniper, herb palate; needs 2 years; medium-plus finish (88 pts.)

2006 – light ruby; spicy, cedar, raspberry and bay leaf nose; light, fresh, fruity.

Its characteristics involve a deep red color with spicy scents of pepper and cinnamon. It fills your mouth easily without stiff tannins.

This [2008] light colored wine, was soft with lots of cherry flavors. Another easy drinking wine, this was like a light and simple Pinot Noir. . . The 2009 seemed even bettere than the prior vintage, with a more alluring, fruity nose and brighter fruit on the palate as well. An easy drinking and fun wine.

Vourvoukeli Estate Limnio
(This is not their "Avdiros Red".)

• Retail offers of this wine listed by 1000 Corks
• This wine does not seem to have any Wine Searcher retail listings (well, one, but the wine is not in their catalogue.)
• This wine's CellarTracker review pages.
• This wine does not seem to have any Wine Searcher "Tasting Notes" page.

Some quotations and facts about this wine:

Rich and dark red color. Ripe black cherry, and pomegranate flavors with cedar and dark chocolate notes. Dry in taste, with lush acidity and well-integrated tannins. Full-bodied but elegant, with aromas of sweet dark cherries, plums, spices, dark chocolate, roasted coffee beans, and a long, spicy aftermath.

This wine is made with 100% estate Limnio, aged in oak. The wine has a beautiful, deep-ruby color. There are currant and blackberry notes, along with some green herbs and cocoa. Tannins are powdered and balanced with the acid. The body is medium, and the finish is long. This is an excellent wine.

[Google-translated from Greek:] The oldest Greek variety, Limnio with the application of innovative vinification methods has matured for 12 months in oak barrels, micro-oxygenations create a wine with soft aromas of fruit, without this not signifying the character of the barrel. The color is purple, aromas of ripe strawberries, black cherries, pomegranate, and notes of cedar and black chocolate. Dry in the mouth, with juicy acidity and well-integrated tannins. Full and elegant, with mouth-to-mouth aromas reminiscent of sweet black cherries, plums, spices, black chocolate, roasted coffee beans, and long, peppery finish.

♣ Gold Medal, 2015 Thessaloniki International Wine Competition.

[L]eaner, lighter, more mineral and herb and higher acids and more toasty-roasted berry - cherry - raisin flavors, I liked it, liked it a whole lot : fun, something "new and exciting!"

From Bobal, to southern California Pinot to old vine Zinfandel, this bottle kept tasters on their toes and reminded us that when you taste a new variety, it will ultimately just taste like itself, regardless of our great desire to put it in a recognizable box. With a slightly oxidized nose of dried fruit and nuts, the palate had plenty of fresh red fruit as well and a more angular, acid driven frame than the nose suggested. Intriguing to say the least…

Depth of fruit and elegant spiciness. Sensual and complex. Great ageing potential.

For a Splurge

With those three being about it, there are no "splurge" choices to be had.





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